Costcutter executive chairman Colin Graves has hit back at critics within the Nisa membership as the group posted its best-ever set of results.
Turnover at Costcutter was up 10% to more than £500m in the last financial year, making it the best 12 months ever for the group in terms of sales and profitability. Confidence is so high that the group will run an extra burst of television advertising in partnership with key suppliers later this month.
However, Graves admitted to feeling personally aggrieved by some of the attacks that were aimed at him and the Costcutter operation during the aborted merger with Nisa last year, attacks that he labelled "vindictive without reason".
He told C-Store: "The merger would have built the business into something more resilient, and I still think it was a good idea. It was not an exit strategy for me - I wouldn't have got any money from it. I would have just rolled my equity over to the bigger company.
"We keep getting kicked by the Nisa Members Association (NMA) and I feel disappointed by it. Costcutter accounts for 42% of Nisa's ambient volume and 30% of fresh and chilled through central distribution - without us, the new warehouse wouldn't even have been built. We have eight years left on our 10-year contract and we will honour it. How many other members have given Nisa a 10-year agreement?"
Graves backed the position of the Nisa board, which told the NMA to 'put up or shut up' at its last meeting, and added: "It is still not clear what the NMA wants, or does it just want to moan about everything?"
He was also adamant that recent events had not damaged the Costcutter brand - in fact, he maintained that loyalty had improved despite retailers receiving some hefty inducements to switch over to other fascias.
"During that time we lost one store to Select & Save and eight to Nisa, but we've since gained five," he said. "Our recruitment target is 100 new stores a year, and we'll beat that this year as we already have 30 in the pipeline waiting for the induction courses.
"Recruitment is fantastic, both from the independent/cash and carry sector and from other symbol groups, and we also have a huge amount of store development under way."
Costcutter currently owns 130 stores, 90 of which are operated under licence by independents, and Graves has plans to expand this portfolio, as long as the right sites can be found.
"There are fewer good stores on the market, so we are increasingly looking at developing greenfield and brownfield sites, mainly in towns and cities," he added.